The best time of year– as some may call it (me included) – has arrived: McDonald’s Monopoly. For those who don’t know, this is when McDonald’s opens a competition to all its customers, by placing stickers on their products, with opportunities to win prizes ranging from a measly fruit bag to a whopping £100,000!
Although the stickers are placed on certain items, they are put on one of the company’s most sold products: French fries (Patton, 2012). Therefore, customers are almost always guaranteed to play the game, enticing people to visit the fast-food chain as it is so easy to get involved. This suggests that people use the peripheral route to persuasion when deciding whether to take part or not, as they base the decision on the ease with which it is to play (Petty, & Cacioppo, 1986).
There are several ways of winning, therefore this clever marketing campaign secures repeat customers for many reasons. For example, the instant wins mean just one sticker allows you to receive a variety of prizes, including certain items from the menu, or higher-value items such as cash prizes, games consoles, and hotel getaways. This way of winning ensures that customers visit the fast-food chain and that they will continue to do so, in the hope of achieving what appears to be an easy win.
However, if customers don’t receive an instant win, they instead obtain a property game piece which resembles one of the squares from a monopoly game board. With this, they can collect a certain number of pieces of the same colour to trade in for a much bigger prize, meaning customers will continue to return to collect all the pieces that they need.
Because only certain items on the menu have stickers, as well as certain items having more stickers than others, during this time of the year McDonald’s sees an increase in sales as customers change their order to accommodate for these terms. I myself am guilty of doing this, as I change my order to include a drink and a burger, meaning I get more stickers than I would do normally. Many customers will be more likely to go for the larger (and more expensive) burgers, as these contain more stickers, therefore their chances of getting a win are increased. As well as this, large meals in comparison to regular meals contain more stickers, thus customers will be persuaded to size up their orders to increase their likeliness of winning. McDonald’s is therefore gaining more money from their customers during this period.
This will be the campaign’s 13th year, and its popularity can be put down to various psychological techniques used by McDonald’s:
The mere-exposure effect suggests that people prefer to respond to messages that they are familiar with (Zajonc, 1968). During the time that McDonald’s Monopoly is on, the campaign is plastered all over TV adverts, billboards, and social media, therefore as customers we become increasingly familiar with the concept. We are aware of when, where, and how long it will be on for, which makes us more likely to go and visit a restaurant to purchase a meal.
Monopoly is arguably the most popular board game in England, with the majority of households having one in their home. The game is so popular that many different versions have been created including Game of Thrones, Pokémon, and Disney – to name a few. Because of this, McDonald’s Monopoly works using the association principle; as people associate the game with fun and enjoyment, they are willing to take part. This is like how advertisements use celebrities to endorse their products, as they are associated with credibility, trustworthiness, and expertise (Erdogan, 2010). McDonald’s uses the game monopoly, as customers hold warm associations towards it and so are likely to respond positively to it.
The game is only on for a limited amount of time – just 6 weeks – therefore customers are exposed to the scarcity principle, increasing their likeliness to want to play. The scarcity principle is described by Cialdini (2007) as when something becomes much more attractive to us because of its low availability. As McDonald’s Monopoly doesn’t occur all year round, we feel as though we need to make the most of it and visit the chain as much as possible to win prizes which we are unable to do during the other 48 weeks of the year.
Another technique which entices people to play is loss aversion. This is the concept that losses loom larger than gains, therefore we would rather avoid missing out on a loss than gain something of an equal value (Tversky & Kahneman, 1991). The idea of missing out on a potential loss – for example one of the high value products such as a car or the £100,000, means that customers worry about missing out on a good deal. Because of this, they prefer to collect all the stickers they can in order to win the prize.
There is another way of receiving prizes which I haven’t yet mentioned: if you do not win an instant prize, you can collect 10 ‘losing’ stickers, and exchange them for a Sky NOW TV 30-day subscription. This incorporates a loyalty scheme into the competition, meaning customers are rewarded for returning and repeating their purchases (Hart, Smith, Sparks, and Tzokas, 1999). People will continue to visit the restaurant because even if they do not win straight away, they can collect enough losing tickets to eventually win a prize; this means that customers can essentially never lose – so why not take part?
Cialdini, R. B., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion (pp. 238). New York: Collins.
Erdogan, B. Z. (1999). Celebrity endorsement: A literature review. Journal of marketing management, 15(4), 291-314.
Hart, S., Smith, A., Sparks, L., & Tzokas, N. (1999). Are loyalty schemes a manifestation of relationship marketing?. Journal of marketing management, 15(6), 541-562.
Patton, L. (2012). McDonald’s Pursuit of the Perfect French Fry. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 10 March 2018, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-04-19/mcdonalds-pursuit-of-the-perfect-french-fry
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1991). Loss aversion in riskless choice: A reference-dependent model. The quarterly journal of economics, 106(4), 1039-1061.
Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9(2p2), 1.